The Greenhouse Effect: Vital to Human Life

Record heat waves are nothing new on planet earth; neither are record cold waves.

Allow me to get nerdy for a moment, and let’s assume (like most present day researchers) I believe this earth has been around for millions of years

The Earth’s climate has changed multiple times over millions of years, and there have been times when CO2 levels were incredibly higher than today. Evidence for this significant climate change is preserved in a wide range of geological settings, including marine and lake sediments, ice sheets, fossil corals, stalagmites, fossil tree rings, and even the colorful layers of rock and dirt found in the walls of the Grand Canyon.

By the way, much of the following data I’m about to present can be found in a 2010 position statement from the Geological Society of London.

The Earth’s climate has been gradually cooling for most of the last 50 million years. At the beginning of that cooling (in the early Eocene), the global average temperature was about 6-7 ºC warmer than now! That’s miserably hot.

About 34 million years ago, at the end of the Eocene, ice caps came together to form a continental ice sheet on Antarctica. In the northern hemisphere, as global cooling continued over millions of years, ice caps and mountain glaciers gave way to large ice sheets around 2.6 million years ago.

Over the past 2.6 million years (the Pleistocene and then the Holocene epoch), the Earth’s climate has been on average cooler than today, and often much colder. That period is known as the ‘Ice Age’, a series of glacial episodes separated by short warm ‘interglacial’ periods that lasted between 10,000-30,000 years. We are currently living through one of these interglacial periods. The present warm period in which we currently live (the Holocene) became established only 11,500 years ago, since when our climate has been relatively stable, although we currently lack the large Northern Hemisphere ice sheets of the Pleistocene, there are of course still large ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica.

This epoch has been ideal for human life with the tropics and temperate areas able to produce vast amounts of food when managed properly. In fact, the slight warming we have experienced since the mid-1800s (about 1 degree Fahrenheit) has allowed the farming zones to expand, which has better served a growing population.

It should be noted that relatively rapid global warming has occurred in the past. About 55 million years ago, at the end of the Paleocene, there was a sudden warming event in which temperatures rose by about 6 °C globally and by 10-20 °C at the poles. There were no cars, or coal plants to make this occur. Carbon isotopic data show that this warming event (called by some the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM) was accompanied by a major release of 1500-2000 billion tonnes or more of carbon (5550-7400 billion tonnes or more of CO2) into the ocean and atmosphere. This injection of carbon may have come been triggered by volcanic activity superimposed on an underlying gradual global warming trend that peaked some 50 million years ago in the early Eocene. CO2 levels were already high at the time. It took the Earth’s climate around 100,000 years or more to stabilize, showing that a CO2 release of such magnitude may affect the Earth’s climate for that length of time. Remember, carbon dioxide has a cycle just like water does, only it’s much slower.

Recent estimates suggest that at times between 5.2 and 2.6 million years ago (during the Pliocene), the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere reached between 330 and 400 ppm. During those periods, global temperatures were 2-3 °C higher than now, and sea levels were higher than now by 10-25 metres, implying that global ice volume was much less than today. There were large fluctuations in ice cover on Greenland and western Antarctica during the Pliocene, and during the warm intervals those areas were probably largely free of ice.

As for the warming over the last 11,500 of years: it will all come to a halt and eventually this earth will become uninhabitable.

Why?

On January 3rd, 2019, earth reached the point in its orbit where it was closest to the Sun: the perihelion. Every object orbiting a single mass (like our sun) makes an ellipse, containing a point of closest approach that’s unique to that particular orbit. For the past 4.5 billion years, Earth has orbited the Sun in an ellipse, just like all the other planets orbiting their stars in all the other mature solar systems throughout the galaxy and Universe.

But there’s something you may not expect or appreciate that nevertheless occurs: earth’s orbital path doesn’t remain the same over time, but spirals outward. in 2019 our perihelion was 1.5 centimeters farther away than it was last year, which was more distant than the year before, etc. It’s not just Earth, either; every planet drifts away from its parent star.

Associated with this are the Milankovitch Cycles.  These cycles describe the effects of the shape of the Earth’s orbit (eccentricity), the angle of the Earth’s axis with respect to the Earth’s orbital plane (obliquity), and the direction of the Earth’s axis of rotation as just described (precession).

The Earth is currently exiting the ideal cycles and is moving in a direction that will eventually allow the global climate quite miserably cold.

Humans certainly are able to influence weather–the day to day stuff that makes the headlines. Heck, we’ve been seeding clouds to produce make rain come or go, and urban heat islands are widely acknowledged, but we are incapable of altering the climate. The orbit of the Earth around the Sun, the predictable timing of the sunrise and sunset, the perfect nature of the tides, the currents of the oceans, the prevailing winds, not to forget the eruption of volcanoes and the methane gas produced by termites, all keep the Earth’s massive climate from machine from failing to do it’s own thing.

You see, God made the heavens and the earth. He put it all in motion for us.

His counterfeit counterpart, Satan, has caused people to believe they can control what God has created. It’s actually quite arrogant for we mere mortals to believe we can alter a major facet of God’s mighty creation.

 

 

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Brian Sussman

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